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Interview:
Kansas at SoundBoard, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

Kansas' present and its past have collided this year.

And that's a good thing.

The group -- a touring staple thanks to its platinum heyday of the 70s -- has been reinvigorated with three new members and has released its first new album in 16 years, "The Prelude Implicit." Meanwhile, it's celebrating the 40th anniversary of its breakthrough album, "Leftoverture," and its hit "Carry On Wayward Son," by playing the set in its entirety during shows on its current North American tour.

So at a point i could well be dust in the wind, Kansas is carrying on in fine fashion. And it clearly hasn't reached a point of no return yet...

When original singer-keyboardist Steve Walsh announced his retirement last year during a second stint with the band, Kansas' remaining co-founders Phil Ehart and Richard Williams considered shuttering the band after 45 years together. "We did look at each other and go, 'OK, this is gonna be interesting,'" drummer Ehart, 65, says by phone from his home in Atlanta. "Losing Steve was gut-wrenching. We all understood the circumstances; He was struggling. There were no hard feelings, but it was not fun. But Richard and I, we love the music and we wanted to keep playing it. There was still an audience that wanted to hear it. So we talked and decided, 'Let's go do it' and we did, and we think we've been very successful in getting it together. We hope we've started a new chapter in the book of Kansas."

Kansas didn't have to look far for new members. Singer-keyboardist Ronnie Platt had been working with Shooting Starr and had crossed path with Kansas over the years. Second keyboardist David Manion was the group's longtime lighting director. Guitarist Zak Rizvi, meanwhile, was a regular engineer for longtime Kansas producer Jeff Glixman who wound up joining the band after being recruited to co-produce "The Prelude Implicit." "We knew (Rizvi) had a lot to offer, and we wanted him more in a co-production role rather than sitting behind a desk," says guitarist Williams, 66d. "And all of a sudden the world of Zak opened up; He's a great guitar player and had so much material and so much to offer that was right down our alley. Early on in the project Phil and I just said, 'Zak needs to be in this band.' So that just added one more big chunk of positive energy. makes us a two-guitar band again."

"The Prelude Implicit," which came out at the end of September, has the feel of a vintage Kansas album, and Ehart and Williams have been buoyed by its positive reception. "That was the hardest thing for us to decide; 'Well, if we're going to do this, what are we going to sound like? Are we going to sound like Kansas?'" Ehart says. "We've been fortunate that has been the reaction from the fans and the press -- 'This sounds like Kansas,' and that's the ultimate compliment."

Playing "Leftoverture" again has rekindled warm feelings for the album, both among the fans and Kansas' members. After modest sales for Kansas' first three albums, the group's label, Kirshner Records, was close to pulling the plug. But the album's Top 5, five-times platinum success ensured a bright future. "I'm nothing but grateful for that album," Williams says. "If it wasn't for 'Leftoverture' and 'Wayward Son' it very well could've been our grand finale. We had no idea it was going to do what it did, but sitting there listening to the album in the studio, we did know at the time that it could be a game changer, that we did something right this time. So I'm completely grateful for that song and that album. It's 40 years later and I'm busier than I've ever been in Kansas."

With the new members and fresh album, Ehart and Williams are, not surprisingly, optimistic about Kansas' prospects moving forward. "With this lineup we feel like we're starting over, not just to make this record but to make the record after that and the record after that and continue on," Williams says. Ehart adds, "The title of the album, 'The Prelude Implicit,' means without a doubt this is a new musical beginning for the band. This is the prelude, this is the beginning of a new musical expanse for us. We're enjoying a real resurgence of sorts, so it's something we want to continue."

Kansas

8 p.m Friday, Oct. 28.

SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Blvd., Detroit.

Tickets are $32-$45.

Call 313-309-4700 or visit soundboardetroit.com.




Web Site: www.soundboarddetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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